The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) is organizing the distribution of robot companions to the homes of more than 800 older adults in New York. The robots will serve as proactive versions of digital assistants like Siri or Alexa, engaging users in small talk, helping contact loved ones, and keeping track of health goals like exercise and medication. The robots are named ElliQ and are built by Israeli firm Intuition Robotics.

NYSOFA’s plan is to help address the growing problem of social isolation among the elderly. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one-third of seniors live alone – an estimated 14 million Americans over the age of 65. And these numbers are expected to increase over the next decade as the Baby Boomer generation ages.

In 2010, Julianne Holt-Lunstad published research that concluded that lonely people are 50% more likely to die prematurely than people with strong social relationships. The ElliQ robots could help tackle this growing health problem by providing companionship. According to research, “Social robots appeared to have positive impacts on agitation, anxiety, and quality of life for older adults.”